Community-based gun violence prevention program launches in Northeast Oklahoma City
LiveFree OKC is Oklahoma’s first community violence intervention program.
The nonprofit launched in Northeast Oklahoma City this week with the goals of building peace and reducing gun violence.
Artist and activist Jabee Williams leads the program as its executive director. He experienced community violence intervention for the first time in 2001, after his brother was shot.
Traumatized, angry and waiting in the hospital, Williams called a friend who called another.
“That guy came to the hospital, picked me up, took me away from the trauma, get something to eat, talk,” Williams said.
When Williams returned, things had calmed.
“And, when I think about this program and I think about what it's about, I always go back to that moment when I'm in the hospital and I wanted to do something,” Williams said.
Community violence intervention programs identify people who are at high-risk for violence. LiveFree OKC employs PeaceMakers who are from Northeast Oklahoma City and trained to intervene, interrupt and redirect. They engage in constructive conversation, mentorship and connecting people with resources they need.
LiveFree OKC is part of a national network.
“We like to believe we are working in the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom Fighters,” said Pastor Michael McBride, leader of LiveFree USA.
In Oklahoma City, LiveFree has the goal to reduce gun violence by 20% across Ward 7 during its first year of operation. LiveFree’s intervention approach does not seek to increase prison populations or act “tough on crime,” McBride said.
Instead, it centers collaboration and community connectedness.
“That's why we wanted to do LiveFree OKC: to support our community. To be credible messengers,” Williams said. “Because, what I've learned is I'm able to take in and understand things a lot easier when I know that somebody else has been through them.”
LiveFreeOKC is hosting a PeaceExpo at Eastpoint on Saturday, Aug. 5 with partners that offer resources and services related to violence prevention.
Editor's Note: Jabee Williams is also a host of Grand Union Radio on The Spy on KOSU.